What Mickey Taught Me (Take 2)

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For some reason, that I’m still trying to work out, the original version of this post was deleted from my blog. I stressed about it for an evening and tried to find it saved somewhere else before accepting it was gone and deciding to just write it again.

I wrote the original post in my favourite coffee shop during the ‘Beast from the East’ storm at the beginning of March. It was a post I’d panned for ages, but had so much to write about that I needed those days of unexpected time and quiet to be able to type it all up. I remember writing about it all did emotionally drain me. All those memories with so much feeling attached; spending days reliving them and typing them up in a way you guys could enjoy reading was hard but I was so pleased with it and it received really positive response.

So here we go again, hopefully it can be just as good this time…

This time I’m writing it at the beginning of January, in my pyjamas, hiding in the flat and savouring the last few days of the Christmas break. It seems strange that at a time other bloggers are publishing posts about their ambitions for the year and their new challenges, I’m writing about something that happened 4 and a half years ago (?!?!). But I think writing this and reliving the memories and achievements of my time at Disney will give me the motivation to succeed in this new year…

This is all about my 2 summers as a cast member at Walt Disney World Florida in 2013 and 2014. All about what I learnt, how it’s changed me and the memories that still make my tummy flutter.

Let’s go back right to the very beginning on my Disney journey.

Summer 2012, )the summer after my first year at uni), crept up on me quite quickly and I had officially no plans, except to spend a lot of time at the gym to try and lose my freshers weight. I did have a good summer that year, some good stuff happened while I was back living at home but I did pine for something a little bit more.

Walt Disney World was a holiday I did with my family a lot growing up and a place that means a lot to us. So when I found the Disney summer job application on the Yummy Jobs website it was a no brainer. Also, Camp America wanted a video application the idea of which made me cringe so that was a definite no…

I sent off my application for summer 2013 in 2012, so it is something you do need to think about well in advance if you’re considering giving it go.

To do the ICP (International College Programme), you need to be attending a UK university at your time of application. On this programme you can be placed anywhere in Disney World and have the option of lots of different roles, from housekeeping, costuming, food service, merchandise and attraction operations. (There is another option- the CRP  (Cultural Representative Programme) which you can apply for at any time. This is a year long programme where you are placed in the UK pavilion in World Showcase.)

In Autumn 2012, I  was invited to the first stage of interviews in Manchester. For the first stage we were all put into groups of 10 (I think) for a group interview. If I remember correctly, this was the first interview I’ve ever done and doing it in a group is even harder. I remember everyone fighting so hard to be noticed and say the right things and you had to really speak up to be heard and stand out from the rest. I was so sure I’d flunked it. Everyone else was linking their degrees to Disney, like events, management, business, performance. But, I was a nutrition student, and nutrition is not something really that relevant to Disney World, where even the apples are covered in chocolate, icing and sugar. So to say I was blagging is an understatement and I somehow was invited to the next round. By this point we had submitted our top 3 role choices and had been measured if we had selected character performance roles (height is really important for characters). I definitely considered it and was asked if I’d like to; I’m quite small so would have been in the main character bracket, but was 100% sure I’d be the character to faint in the heat or fall on a child so didn’t go for it. I chose to select housekeeping, operations and costuming. I’d heard on the grapevine that they think highly of anyone brave enough to select housekeeping and when I thought about it, it definitely had perks, early starts and sensible time finishes, air con, tips…

The second stage was a face to face interview, in Manchester again,  with a member of the Disney World management team. I was interviewed by one of the hotel managers who was lovely and made it seem quite easy…

There’s a line my cousin taught me to use at the end of interviews. When they ask if you have any questions, you ask if there is anything else you can say to make them see you are right for this role. It’s cringey and hard to get the words out but it has a really high success rate. And it worked! That’s still the only time I’ve ever managed to get that line out. It felt right for Disney and the cheesy American lady took it well.

The night the interview results emails were sent out, around mid-November I think, either rejection or acceptance, I was sitting in my student kitchen eating dinner with my flatmates. I checked twitter and saw a girl I had met at the interviews had tweeted about her heartbreak at being rejected. I knew my email would be in my inbox too so sneaked off to check my laptop. I had been accepted and offered a role in housekeeping. I can’t put into words how I felt in the moment. I rang my Mum and Dad (who blubbed like a baby) and it took me ages to stop the tears and face my housemates to tell them the news.

After the initial delight, it all seemed to calm down and in all honestly what was going to happen that next summer was far from my mind day-to-day. There was the chaos of uni and the sudden increase of work in second year and a long-distance relationship which broke down quite badly in the spring. I was also setting myself a lot of unhealthy weight loss goals, which were unattainable because of cheap alcohol and the 24 hour McDonald’s next to out flat. The fact I was about to move to Disney World for 3 months was far from my mind until a couple of weeks before we set off.

In around the April, when I was starting to get things in order such as my Visa and buying the things I needed, I realised I didn’t know anybody else who was going. I’d spoke to a few people at interviews and kept in touch but none of them had been successful. I emailed Yummy Jobs and asked them to send out my email so I could chat to some others about their preparations, they did and I received a few responses, one of whom added me on Facebook and invited me to join the ICP Summer 2013 Facebook group…

A whole new world was opened that afternoon. I remember opening the group on my laptop to see posts about me. People asking who the random girl was who had failed to make friends at the interviews, how was I only trying to make friends now and why hadn’t I been in the group all along? I had made a friend, she just didn’t get in and I just figured I’d make friends nearer the time rather than months and months before. I was busy enjoying my uni friends rather than trying to make new ones and I just didn’t know there was a Facebook group, hadn’t occurred to me for a second. Anyway, I remember writing a sassy reply explaining this and managed to connect with some lovely people I’d be going with. However, you realise quite fast when you get there, friendships will happen with flatmates, workmates and people you meet on this bus and often you never see the people you connected with online beforehand; not out of being rude, but just because you get placed in different apartments, different shifts, days off and you prioritise doing different things in your free time. I wasn’t so naive the second year and didn’t attempt to make any friends through the group before setting off. It all happens so naturally once you get there that you’ll feel silly for putting so much pressure on yourself to force online friendships in advance. I made some amazing, lifelong friends those summers and I don’t think I had spoken to any of them before I arrived at Manchester airport.

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Top Tips if you’re thinking of applying for a Disney work programme:

  • Loving and being passionate about Disney will help in a way, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. I know people who lived for Disney before who really struggled working there and people who had never been before or who didn’t really understand it who gained so much from it. It is a job, not a holiday, and really hard work. It has magic moments, of course it does, and is an amazing experience that I’d recommend to everyone, but it’s not all smiles and magic; there’s blood, sweat and tears (literally).
  • Be really open-minded about the roles you select. Think about the positives and negative of each. Consider the hours you’ll work, what best suits your personality, where you could be placed. And  don’t be naive thinking it will all be magic and glamorous. You could be in a fast food kitchen smelling of chip fat. But that fast food kitchen could be in Magic Kingdom and you can watch the fireworks with a funnel cake post-shift. It’s worth it. But I saw so many people leave the programme due to having very different expectations to what it actually is. You won’t be a Disney Princess, Visa limitations won’t allow it, so be prepared to be less than glam.
  • Swat up before interviews, read about new Disney World attractions online, read blogs from cast-members, learn all about Disney life and the guest experiences to really stand out in an interview.

At the end of May, in the space of a week, I went from avoiding revision and binge watching TV shows in my uni room to standing in front of Cinderella’s Castle in the Magic Kingdom as a cast member in the space of a couple of days. I don’t think anything could have prepared me for the feeling. I was in a haze of jetlag, sunstroke, excitement and disbelief. But there I was, in my clammy Traditions dress, standing in Disney World and about to become part of the magic.

Traditions is kind of  every cast member’s initiation, hours of talks on Disney history, expectations, the importance of the roles and a tour of the Magic Kingdom and the cast tunnel network below. It’s cheesy, very full-on and very Disney, but really does succeed in making you feel driven and valued. I completed Traditions twice, once each summer, and I still blub thinking about watching the videos of children finding out they’re going to Disney World and seeing my name badge for the first time.

For the summer of 2013, I worked in Housekeeping in Old Key West Resort. I was the only English person in Housekeeping at Old Key West and was treated like a bit of celeb, however, I wasn’t great at housekeeping. Well I was OK, I do quite like cleaning and it was nice to be working in air-con, in my own space and making rooms magical for guests, but I did work at about 1/5 of the pace of the Haitian and Latino women. I took on the role flyer, which is where you go and help the people falling behind the time schedule, making sure suites are ready for guests and adding the finishing touches such as Mickey shaped towels and cupcakes and delivering requested items to guests. I was given a golf cart to drive around the resort to help with my efficiency and to save my tired feet which permanently felt broken. Word even got around that I wasn’t getting time to eat at work and hadn’t been to the supermarket for snacks so the other housekeepers began bringing me food in. I was quite spoiled but I really did give it my all, I’m just not a strapping Haitian lady who can do things at 50 miles an hour. The main thing I gained from housekeeping was the cultural experience as the housekeeping team were phenomenal and were from all over the world. The job was so hard and came with so much pressure, but there was always quite a happy atmosphere. I made really good friends who made that summer for me and allowed me to experience something completely different to what others on the ICP were experiencing.

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That summer I lived in Vista Way in a flat of 6, 2 per bedroom. I shared my room with a Japanese girl who worked in Pizza Planet in Hollywood studios and who loved One Direction. There were 2 other girls from the UK in my apartment, another girl from Japan and one from Puerto Rico, its definitely enlightening living with people from different cultures…

My Most Surreal and Happiest Memories of Being a Cast Member:

  • In 2014, a month into working at Hollywood Studios, I was bitten by a poisonous spider while at work. I nearly died, but was so pumped up on adrenaline that it did take a while to realise what was happening and how serious it was. I finished my shift and went off to MK to watch the fireworks. It wasn’t until I was starting work the next morning that I really realised what was happening and was quickly whisked off in an ambulance to Celebration hospital. It was all very very surreal, particularly because Celebration hospital is nicer than a lot of hotels I’ve stayed in and I was fighting to keep conscious all the time. I was fine though, and I had a lovely few days of bed rest. 
  • I touch on this again later, but Jelly Rolls on Disney’s Boardwalk, because of that place I still go fuzzy when I hear Wagon Wheel, Chicken Fried or Piano Man.
  • In 2013, I saw an armadillo that had been struck by lightening outside my apartment building and in 2014 a raccoon tried to steal my bag of crisps while I was having a late night dip in the pool. The nature in Florida really is beautiful.
  • In 2014, while working at HS, I was given some firework shifts for the Frozen fireworks that were happening in the park that summer. On my first shift, we were told we were there to stand in the cleared areas making sure that no fires start from firework fall-out. A fire is referred to as a signal 25 in Disney lingo. We were assured they were very rare….but guess who got a signal 25 in their area that night? Me! What a drama!
  • Engaging with characters off stage, when they’re half in costume or talking normally through the head. I never got used to that, so bizarre. 
  • Extra Magic Hours Dance Parties happened once a week and luckily I was often scheduled to work them. For a few hours on an evening the Disney Junior theatre became a character party for Disney resort guests. It was definitely at these parties that I really felt ‘is this actually my job?!’ They were just so happy! I was basically paid to stand there and dance.

 

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I  was lucky in Housekeeping in that, although I did start at the crack of dawn, I always had evenings free. I used to spend evening in the parks, chilling out at the hotels or in Downtown Disney (which I know isn’t called that anymore but it will always be Downtown Disney to me). It became a bad habit to stay out so late that when I got back I would shower, put on my work costume and have a couple of hours sleep before waking up ready 5 minutes before I had to be on my bus. Burning the candle at both ends is an understatement, I’m not sure I could physically do that now. By the time my parents and brother came to visit at the end of that July, I was so ready for a break and to feel like I was properly ‘holidaying’.  I still had to do some shifts while they were there but just staying in their hotel with them and being able to get a Starbucks and a taxi to work on a morning just made me feel so much better and that little lift really got me through the last weeks. We also discovered Ohana and Jelly Rolls that holiday which I’ll go on to explain later- they were a real game-changer in my Disney life.

By the time I got to the end of the programme in August, I did feel very settled and couldn’t get my head round the fact, as hard and surreal as it was at times, this wasn’t actually my life and it was all going to stop and I was going to have to go home. That felt weird and I still felt I had some energy left in me so I changed my flights to stay a little bit longer. In those few weeks, I went to Miami with a group of friends I’d made on the programme, I went to Universal and spent a few days chilling by the pools at the Disney Resorts. By the time it was time to go home, I felt ready and like the experience and what was to come next was a lot clearer in my head.

 

My Top Tips for those who are successful in getting onto to Disney Programme:

  • In the majority of roles, you’ll be asked to buy your own black, logo free, trainers to wear with your costume. Invest in the comfiest you can find, no matter the cost, your feet will thank you so much. I also found it good to buy a size bigger as feet do swell in the heat.
  • Carbo-load, take vitamin supplements, drink plenty of water and eat fresh whenever you can. Working such long hours in the heat, partying hard on an evening and trying to keep yourself alive and employed takes a massive toll on your body. Look after it and give it what it needs to survive. I lost a lot of weight both summers and probably had the same nutrient content as a sock. Maybe I’d have been able to give it even more if I went to Walmart to buy some fruit and veg rather than having Mickey Cookies for dinner while playing in the parks.
  • Just before you arrive, you’re asked to select your accommodation preferences, and there’s a cheaper option of a room of 3. Take it. It saves you so much money per week and as you are very very rarely there it really doesn’t matter and trust me, you’ll be so tired you’d sleep on the floor in a room of 20 people.
  • The cast buses are (well were, they might have improved), a nightmare. They break down, get lost (?!) arrive late and get crammed way too full of sweaty, tired bodies all needing a cold shower and a sleep. You just gotta grin and bare it. You can use them for days out in the parks on yours days off too which is a plus! But once you get to one park use the guest buses, boats or monorail to get to anywhere else on Disney property (as long as you’re not in costume of course).
  • Use your cast-member perks. If you feel you need a reboot, a bath and a good breakfast use your big discount to book yourself into a Disney hotel for a night. Same for restaurants, it is hard to find time to get to the supermarket and prepare food in your apartment so use your discounts to eat out when you really need a proper meal. Ohana is my favourite place to eat in Disney, treat yourself to a night out there and watch the fireworks from the beach with a cocktail afterwards.
  • Spend as many evenings as you possibly can in Jelly Rolls on the Boardwalk. Jelly Rolls is my favourite place in the world. Some of my very very happiest memories happened there. From going with my Mum and Dad when they came to visit in 2013 and many times with friends in 2014. It’s a duelling Piano Bar where pianists perform your requests and everyone in the bar joins in the sing along, they will play and sing everything from Eminem to Billy Joel to Showtunes. It is the happiest place in the world right in the middle of the happiest place in the world.

 

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I wouldn’t say I was 100% sure I was going to try and return the next summer. Although part of me wanted more, the other part was very much, ‘no Kate, you’ve ticked that off the list now do something else’. But once Autumn came, I found myself sending off an application, I just made a promise to myself I’d only go if I was offered a role very different to what I did in 2013. I had to go through the same application and interview process the second time round, only this time the second stage of interviews was held at the Disney Headquarters in London. I stayed quite true to what I learnt the year before and was very single-minded going into it. If I got in again I’d make friends once I got there or reconnect with others who were successful once again. I was in my final year of uni trying to keep my head down and didn’t really talk to anyone about the fact I was trying again. Part of me did think I’d had enough luck and I wouldn’t be selected again, but I also knew I had an advantage as I knew the ropes and how to talk the talk at interviews. The night before my interview at the Disney Headquarters, I travelled to London and stayed in quite a dingy hostel in a 20 bed dormitory with a large group of Italian ladies all job searching in the capital. On the day of the interview, I didn’t really talk to anyone; that sounds quite sad doesn’t it, and not usually what I’m like at all but for some reason I did just have a real ‘head down and get on with it approach’. The only person I remember speaking to was the security guard in the lift while he was taking me to the interview room because I somehow got lost. It was an awkward conversation because I remember ‘Under the Sea’ was playing really loudly at the same time, which is strange because I ended up working on the Little Mermaid show that summer-maybe it was an omen. The approach I took for the interview was that I had worked my arse off (literally) in the resorts the summer before and now wanted to experience work in the parks. I made clear operations was the role I was really going for and it all paid off and that was what I got. When I found out I’d been successful, I didn’t quite celebrate like I had the year before, it felt more relief than surprise and excitement. Although I pretended to be chill about it, I would have been gutted to be unsuccessful. But once again, I brushed the my summer plans to the side for 6 months and concentrated on my life at Uni in Sheffield.

When April came around, it was Visa time again. This is a long story, one I don’t think I can type as just typing it makes me anxious all over again. Needless to say, this time it wasn’t so smooth. It was actually very stressful; I touch on it a bit I think in my Disney blog I’ll share a link to at the end. But the ordeal came off well and I was granted a Visa and returned to Florida once again for the Summer of 2014.

It instantly felt easier. I didn’t have the nerves or the anticipation or the fear of the unknown as I had the year before. I was instantly settled. This time I had vitamin supplements with me to keep me going and I told my Mam I had learnt my lesson and was going to try and sleep more than 4 hours a night (I didn’t).

 

Ways Disney changed how I work:

  • Being grateful. That sounds cheesy I know, and grateful is definitely not how I feel on the 7am 91 bus to work on a Monday morning. But at Disney, we all felt so grateful to be there and to have been given the opportunity after fighting so hard for it. That is something I try to bring to the work I do now- just feeling grateful and lucky. Whatever job you do, there’s probably someone else who really wanted it, so appreciate it and give it your best shot.
  • Stamina. I did 16-18 hour shifts on a 6inch Subway and a bottle of coke with a couple of hours sleep. I stood and smiled, did magic moments, spieled, said the same thing over and over in crazy heat with ridiculously sore feet. Now, I struggle to get through a day at work if I accidentally stayed up past 10. 26- year-old-Katie needs to start being more 21-year-old-Katie, I was hardcore back then.

 

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In summer 2014, I lived at Chatham Square in a 6 person, 2 bedroom flat. Three per bedroom sounds a squeeze, but was honestly fine and saves you some pennies you can spend on other things like cocktails or plush toys. I worked at Hollywood Studios dotting between the Voyage of the Little Mermaid Show and the Disney Junior show. I also worked some shifts in their Temporary Frozen attraction and fireworks shifts too. Working in the parks was very different to working in the resorts; both have good points and bad points. I loved the guest interaction within the parks and seeing the children’s faces when you do a magic moment or they see a character, but you do have to say the same thing over and over and there’s a lot of standing in the heat and dealing with tricky guests. I had to spiel as a part of my role at Voyage of the Little Mermaid which really pushed me out of my comfort zone and took me a fair few attempts to get right. Other duties included seating guests for the show, counting them into the theatre and quickly getting them out ready for the next show, dancing along with the songs at Disney Junior show and repeatedly asking children to remain seated and explaining where the nearest restrooms are.

Things that’ll never be the same after working at Disney:

  • The word ‘bump’. At Disney, when you get your ‘bump’ it means that someone has come to take over your position and you’re free to spend the last 15 minutes of your shift wandering, smiling and telling guests where the restrooms are. Bumps were a great thing you used to spend all day looking forward to. Now when someone says they’ve had a bump it’s my instinct to be like ‘oo yay’, but out of Disney bumps aren’t that great.
  • The smell of popcorn. If you know, you know.
  • Strollers! A big part of a lot of Disney roles is parking strollers for guests. I became a stroller expert. Even now I look at strollers and think how easy it would be to park, where the brakes are and how well it will turn on its wheels.
  • The song ‘A Star is Born’ from Hercules. It’s played around Hollywood Studios when the last guest has left on a night and it still fills me with a bit of elation, a bit of panic about completing the closing paperwork and a bit of impending doom about having to catch the last cast bus home.

 

That summer, I had more amazing experiences such as travelling to Miami to see Beyonce and Jay-Z and in my last few days of work my friends from home flew out to meet me in Disney before travelling around America together.

One of the most emotional moments of my life so far was when I walked out of the Magic Kingdom for the last time at the end of Summer 2014, and anyone who knows me knows I’m not that much of an emotional person. The fireworks had just finished and the Mainstreet USA music was playing and I walked away from the castle and out of the gates for the last time. I decided to do it on my own because I knew how hard it would be. Weirdly, I stopped half-way and asked a stranger to take this picture of me. Typical Katie- in the midst of the most emotional time of my life and I could still pose for a photo.

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Being a cast member and my life in Orlando is so far from where I am now that it feels strange to think about. I’m very different to how I was back then (and about 2 stone heavier). I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, a good thing or something that was just inevitable. The feeling of ‘Oh my gosh, that actually happened to me!’ and the flippy tummy feeling I get when I look back, comes over me often; when I’m cleaning the flat, on the bus to work, or when I’m tipsy in a bar. It’s always hard to put into words what Disney World means to me now. I know some other ex cast members still holiday there at every opportunity and keep up to date with new attractions, resorts and pine for that life. And I’m just not sure I do. It’s the most magical place on earth where my family and I have had some of our happiest memories. It’s where I’ve learnt so much about myself and made some of my best friends in the world. It gave me amazing experiences and stories I’ll love forever. But mentally, that door is half shut for me now. I still peak through it every now and then for old times sake but there are so many other places to see and to experience and a life outside the Disney bubble to lead.

Maybe when I have kids, we’ll go back. I can’t imagine how it would feel to walk back into the Magic Kingdom again with my own family. I could give the attractions hosts a knowing smile and would really appreciate the cleanliness and towel arrangement in my hotel room. But do you know what? If that doesn’t happen and we decide to take the kids camping in Scotland every summer instead then that would be pretty magic too. I’ve had enough Disney Magic in my life time for 40 people.

We’re good me and Mickey.

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There we have it.

I think that almost sums it all up, but I’m sure I’ll keep remembering things and adding bits to this post for the next couple of weeks.

You can read the blog I kept over my 2 summers as a cast member here:

http://www.mickeyminnieandkatie.blogspot.com

I still have a flick through it often to remind myself of things I’ve forgotten and to give me a little bit of a pick me up! This blog took off so much while I was out there and still remains my most successful work, but I guess I had a lot of good content to include! There’s not quite so much to say these days!

Thank you for reading,

Katie x

Featured post

The Land of Nod.

I spend a lot of money on sleep, which is weird because I think it’s meant to be a free activity. But I’m proud to say, I think I’m an excellent sleeper and 90% of the time I do bounce up on a morning. However, it hasn’t always been like this, I really struggled to sleep through University (apart from hungover naps) and at times of anxiousness and big change, mainly in the months after travelling, it’s like the adrenaline stayed and kept me going even when I was home and settled down. So I guess it’s through these times that I really began to invest in good quality sleep and down time and picked up good habits and products to help which I now struggle to sleep without. I do spend a lot of the day thinking about bed time and the down time before and find it’s so important to keep me feeling balanced and focused and in control of things. Even on nights I’m out till late I’ll still take some time when I get home going through my pre-sleep routine as without it my sleep really isn’t as good and I feel it the next day. I think I’m essentially a high-maintenance toddler with expensive taste.

SO here’s my list of tips for a good nights sleep:

Products:

This Works, Deep Sleep Spray: There’s 3 people in my relationship. Me, Max and my Sleep Spray. I stock-pile it and have travel size bottles for holiday. It really is the product I use the most religiously and can’t live without. I spray into onto my pillows just before putting my head down and it helps to put me into a good quality sleep really quickly. I also have the roll-on version that I put onto my wrists but I do find the pillow spray more effective.

Neom, Scent to Sleep, Scent to Calm and Scent to Destress Range: I count myself as one of Neom’s biggest fans. I use their products throughout the day and use the different scents for different situations, but it’s always the Scent to Sleep, Scent to Destress and Scent to Calm products that are always on my bedside table. I currently have the Destress hand cream, Sleep body oil and the Calm candle on the go. I really swear by them to relax, and although quite spenny they last a while and are worth their money in gold if they work for you and change your mood!

Aromatherapy Diffuser and Essential Oils: This is a new product I’ve thrown into my bedtime ritual but now don’t think I’d be without it! I bought the VicTsing 150ml Diffuser from Amazon for less than £20 and have been very impressed with it! I use a mix of lavender and camomile and clary sage oils on an evening and it makes our room smell like a Spa, it’s a dream! This diffuser has a sleep timer so I leave it going as I fall asleep, its really quiet and releases a cool mist of aroma. This diffuser also has a changing colour light which really adds to the ambience of our bedroom on an evening. (I do always get an eye roll from Max when he walks into our room mid my bedtime ritual- honestly men don’t understand).

Camomile Tea: For a long time I bought very expensive Sleep teabags from expensive brands- I still occasionally do if I’m feeling fancy- but plain old cheap as chips camomile tea does have the save effect. I can’t explain the science behind it but it really works. I think this is the first tip I tried when my mum bought me a box when I was struggling to sleep in my final year of uni and my sleepy tea quickly became s joke in my student house.

Space Masks: Back last autumn when I was going through the anxiety of job applications and interviews I got a little addicted to Spacemasks. I can’t even tell you how amazing they feel and it’s the nicest way to fall to sleep. Spacemasks are single-use eye masks that heat up on your face and release a subtle scent of jasmine, so so lovely. They’re an expensive habit but amazing as a treat, a gift or for people going through a period of insomnia.

Good Habits:

Avoid screen time in the half hour before: This is an obvious one that’s gets repeated so much but It’s true, of course I’m guilty of falling asleep in front of a screen showing netflix but it feels so much better to fall asleep right after reading for half an hour or listening to an audiobook.

Water or Camomile Tea Only: With the exception of weekends I do only drink water or camomile tea in the evening, that way there’s no sugar or caffeine in my system when it’s time to settle down and go to sleep. It seems a bit patronising to even type it but I’ve heard so many people complain of restless sleeping after having a proper brew right before bed.

Positive Thinking and Writing it Down: This might sound a bit too cheesy for some people but honestly give it a go. I have done various forms of this for years and really enjoy doing it right before bed. I have journals I fill out with positive thoughts, I tend to use focus journals with questions for me to answer or bullet points to write lists. It’s just a nice reflective thing to do at the end of the day and leave it on a good note.

Bed for Bed Time: When I was at uni I feel like my life just resolved around my bed, it’s where I spent the day typing assignments, watching netflix and eating snacks and was then struggling to sleep in there on a night. It really was my pit and the centre of my world. It’s gross now to think about it. Now I don’t go to bed, or really even the bedroom, until it’s bed time and feel so much better and sleep so much better because of it. I spend all day looking forward to the moment I get in to bed. Distance really does make the heart grow stronger.

Hunger Games: It’s never good to go to sleep really full and full of carbs, it can make you feel so restless. I try to always eat atleast a couple of hours before I plan to go to sleep so that I am a little bit hungry a bed time. I have occasionally taken it too far and gone to bed starving to the point I don’t sleep at all and end up getting up in the early hours for some cereal, I wouldn’t recommend that. But it is good to wake up in the morning hungry for breakfast and restart your metabolism. (I did study nutrition but this is obviously not official medical advice, just based on things I’ve read and my own experiences!)

Wash that Linen: There’s nothing better in the world than fresh sheets, I tend to do the whole lot every 3 weeks but do wash the pillow cases every weekend (I love the Dream Unstoppables to add to a wash for a lovely lavender scent boost!). I changed our linens around a lot too, we have cotton for spring/summer and heavy brushed cotton for autumn/winter. Sometimes I think how good our bed sheets are is a bad thing, it can make it so hard to get out!

I hope these products and tips prove useful for anyone struggling to settle down on an evening and join the land of nod! Life is hard enough as it without being tired.

Katie.
x

Our trip around France.

The idea of travelling around France in a car with your boyfriend and his 2 best mates might not appeal to some gals. And to be honest when it was decided that that would be our main summer holiday it didn’t appeal to me that much. But it turned out to be so fun, chilled and we made so many happy memories (thanks guys).

Wedding photo by @curiousprovence

The whole plan came about as Max and his friend Joe were asked to be groomsmen at a wedding in Provence. The wedding of their uni friend Luke and his Fiancé, El. I’ve never really been to France before, except for Disneyland Paris and a half day in St Tropez on a cruise, so was pretty excited about the idea of a long weekend in Provence, flying in and out, a nice hotel and a really chill weekend to kick off the summer. But this was all a bit flattened when Max announced he was going to drive…

I’m sure Max won’t mind me saying that he’s not a good flyer. He told me pretty early on when we started dating that he didn’t like it but he’s also spent summers in San Francisco and Sweden so I didn’t think he could be THAT scared. But then we flew to Copenhagen in 2016 and I saw it for real, he didn’t speak to me or make eye-contact with me from entering Manchester airport to getting out the airport in Copenhagen, except to snap at me when I tried to make up some reassuring figures about unlikely it is that the aeroplane will go down. So really I shouldn’t have been THAT surprised that he’d much rather spend hours and hours driving than hopping onto a plane. He is also very attached to his car.

To make the straight drive down to the town of L’isle-sur-la-Sourge, where the wedding was, would have taken 15 hours from Leeds which would’ve been a long slog but not impossible, I guess. But then we wouldn’t have been able to see much of France which seemed a bit of a waste. So instead we planned an 8 day roadtrip that would break up the driving and allow us to see some of prettiest towns and cities in France while still having a long weekend in Provence for the wedding.

At first the plan was to travel in 2 cars, me and Max and then Joe and Chris (Max’s other good friend who Joe chose as his plus 1 for the wedding). But it was decided, to save money on petrol and the tunnel, we would squeeze into 1 car. We were so glad that we did too as the road tolls were a killer and something we didn’t really budget for.

We set off really early on Monday the 23rd to drive 5 hours to Folkestone to get the 13.20 shuttle through the channel tunnel. I’ve never been to the tunnel before and was expecting something really industrious and cold. And yeh, ok, the actual shuttle and tunnel are like that, I mean how festive can you make a tunnel going under the sea, but what I didn’t expect was the holiday vibe, organisation, and airport style terminal with restaurants and shops. I don’t know why I was so surprised by that. As it was the first Monday of the summer holidays it was busssyyy and our shuttle was delayed roughly an hour but it didn’t matter to us. The shuttle was not at all like I had expected, it was so easy, fast and efficient. It felt magic driving out in France 30 minutes after we set off. Honestly, my parents were missing a trick taking me to Disney World all them times when I was little, I’d have been quite content with a return journey in the car on the Euro shuttle (joking obviously, I love you Mickey).

Once we’d arrived in France we drove 4 hours to our first stop, Bernieres-sur-Mer in Normandy. Like most of the places we stayed we had booked our accommodation on Air B & B (that thing that I still really love and Max is still quite sceptical about). We’d booked a 3 story holiday home with 2 big bedrooms. It was beautiful, and in the the prettiest little town near the sea. We were so knackered though, and feeling so grim from hours and hours and hours in the car. After I quickly went out to take some sunset pictures we just ate the baguette, ham and cheese we’d bought from a supermarket en-route and stuck to beers and games in our little house.

The next morning we set off early to Mont St Michel. It was around a 2 hour drive from our overnight stop but was somewhere we all wanted to see. Mont St Michel is a castle on its own island just of the Normandy coast, kinda like Holy Island. It’s very beautiful to look at and is set up really well for tourists. Everybody parks in the car park and then can either use the free shuttle to the island or pay to take a horse and cart (or walk which would’ve been quite achievable on a cooler day). At the end of your trip to the Island you just have to pay for your parking which was quite reasonable. You would also have to pay a little more to go into the castle, we chose not to because the whole appeal really was looking at the castle from the outside. On the island while working your way up to the castle you walk through beautiful tiny streets with little shops, restaurants and creperies with colourful signs and cobbled floors. I thought it felt quite Disney, but I’m starting to realise Disney is now so deep-routed in me I see everything as a little bit Disney. After having a wander and admiring the views we then took the shuttle back to the mainland for some lunch before setting off to La Rochelle.

It was a long 4 hour drive to La Rochelle but was very much worth it. I think La Rochelle was my favourite place that we visited and I’d love to go back for a longer holiday. We booked to stay at Hotel St Nicolas, a pretty mid-range hotel a 5 minutes walk from the port. We checked-in a got changed before heading out for the evening to celebrate Max’s birthday eve. La Rochelle really is beautiful and a lot more lively than I expected, there were street performers and market stalls and the bars and restaurants were all overflowing into the streets, it was so sunny and the atmosphere was great. We had a lovely night drinking beers and eating really good food. We chose to eat on Rue St Jean du Perot, the street recommended to us by the receptionist in the hotel. The street was pretty, booming and had musicians playing accordions all the way down and seemed to be where everyone in La Rochelle was heading to, despite this it was all still really reasonably priced with most restaurants offering set menus.

The next day we set off for Bordeaux, 2 hours from La Rochelle. We had decided rather than heading into the city we’d head for a restaurant in the vineyard area for Max’s birthday lunch. When travelling I use tripadvisor a lot to plan where to eat, I’ve got this weird phobia of wasting a holiday meal opportunity on somewhere not that great, so always try to find the best, even if just for a sandwich or a coffee and cake. Where we ate that lunch time was a place I’d found on tripadvisor, and the reviews were right to be so good, the food was great. They did struggle with us being English though but luckily showing 4 fingers and saying ‘burgers and beers’ is pretty universal. How lucky that there isn’t really much variation in different languages in the words for beer and burger. After the burger I the accidentally ordered a very extravagant dessert platter, no idea how that happened but was very happy it.

That night we were staying in 2 different places, Joe and Chris had hired their own villa while me and Max had booked to stay in a Vineyard Chateau.

I’ll giggle for ages thinking about how excited Joe and Chris were for their villa with a pool and how much Max was trying to rearrange our plan so he could have some time in their pool. Only to find they were actually sharing the pool with the family who lived with in house and the families 14 year old twin girls were in the pool the whole time.

Me and Max were staying at Chateau de la vieille Chapelle, a place recommended to us by a friend. There are only 3 rooms at the chateau and only 2 in the chapel itself. We were lucky to get a beautiful room in the chapel. The rooms were huge and really tastefully decorated with beautiful views over the courtyard and the river. The bedroom and bathroom were all in one room which freaked Max out a little but I actually quite liked. There was a toilet, in its own corner with 3 walls around but no door, I see why, it was in a nook of the roof of the chapel and it would have been hard to tastefully put door on and I really didn’t mind it, (there were more private toilets in the courtyard), but Max was traumatised…I’ll explain more in a minute.

At 6.30 every evening in the chapel they do a complimentary wine tasting of the wines they make on their vineyard. The owner did the tasting with us, he was fresh from a day at the vines and covered in squashed grapes and mud but it was lovely to be with a guy so passionate about good wine and his own produce. The wines really were amazing, I’m not a massive non-fizzy wine fan, and especially not keen on drinking red (usually I just use it for bolognaise sauce), but their reds really were delicious and so fruity. We tend to run a gin and beer only flat at home but got all wrapped up in the wine hype and ended up buying a lot of bottles of their wine to bring home with us (my pasta sauces are going to be even more banging for the next year).

After the wine tasting we made use of the chateau’s beautiful sunny courtyard and sat out and read and ate the snacks we’d bought earlier that day (link back to this in a sec). Before heading back to our room to shower and enjoy the feeling of the chapel, and watch a few episodes of Dark Tourist on Netflix (you need to watch, so good!)

So here’s a sub story. Key points: the toilet in our suite didn’t have a door. Snacks had been in the car a while and it was hot. Most snacks were fine, crisps, baguette. Max took a risk and tried the butter that had gone through a few heat processes while sitting in the boot. French butter is a lot more dairy and heavier than ours and it didn’t settle well in his tummy and there was an interesting event next morning. Let’s just say we’re closer now than we’ve ever been and the morning in the chateau after the dodgy butter and with the toilet without the door will be story that will mentioned through our entire relationship. But we’ve come out the other side and we can have a good laugh about it.

Don’t worry about him, literally a couple of hours later he was pulling over to pick himself up a baguette and a pain au chocolat.

That day we headed to Carcassonne. We had hired a villa for the night through Air B & B, 10 minutes drive from central Carcassonne. We dropped off our bags and headed into the city for a wander. Carcassonne is a pretty city dominated by the castle on a hill in the centre. There’s also a street with multi-coloured umbrellas hanging above which is a must see, so pretty! We had a good wander, took plenty of photos, stopped for a drink and picked up some groceries before heading back to our villa for dinner , cards agaisnt humanity and a few hours of being eaten alive by bugspray-defying mosquitos.

From Carcassonne we travelled to L’isle-sur-la-Sourge where the wedding was held, 4 hours from Carcassonne. We hired another villa through Air B & B for us to stay in for the long weekend. That evening we went out to celebrate the wedding eve with Luke and El and the wedding guests at a really lovely restaurant in the town. L’isle-sur-la-Sourge was a lot bigger than I was expecting with loads of bars or restaurants, it would be a great place to head to back to if we ever holiday in Provence again! Although getting around was a little tricky, we obviously relied on taxis when Max was drinking and they were a bit thin on the ground. There was one uber, opening the uber app was just watching one guy drive around and when we did get through to someone his wife rang us and said he was at home but he’d get ready and come and get us, before just cancelling a few minutes later.

The next day was the wedding day. Max and Joe has to head to the venue earlier to get into their suits and do some groomsman duties so me and Chris had a lazy morning reading and sunbathing before being picked up by a minibus to head to the venue. The wedding was just outside L’ilse-sur-la-Sourge, on Luke’s family’s property. They’d turned a big field into a perfect outdoor wedding space. It was so hot that day but we stood with hand fans sipping champagne waiting for the ceremony to start. I am very emotional at weddings, I cry at Say Yes to the Dress, Don’t tell the Bride, soap weddings, I just love them, so invite me to yours if you want a token sobber. Luckily, I had sunglasses on and a really good waterproof mascara so think I got away with it. We had such a lovely day celebrating in the sun, drinking really good wine, playing beer pong and enjoying the lovely atmosphere.

It was a late night, so we literally did nothing the next day, except read, catch up with Love Island on my Ipad (important), eat carbs and sunbathe. That night though I did have a real paranormal experience…

The villa was very modern but was a converted out-house in it’s past life I would say, definitely a converted something, built between two houses. Me and Max had our bedroom door open as the air con hub was in the main lounge where Chris was sleeping. I was woken at 3 a.m. up by something stroking my leg (wasn’t Max, he was flat out at the other side of the bed), to sit up and find the TV in the living room on the no signal screen with the remote next to it, so it couldn’t have been that Chris had rolled onto it by accident. I lay there sh*t scared for 40 minutes, too scared to wake Max as he has a big drive the next day, the TV turned off after 40 minutes only for the shower to turn straight on for a few minutes (not dripping- ON!). It was very freaky. I was too scared to go for a wee so lay there, busting, until the sun came up at 6. I don’t think I believe in ghosts but it was all just a bit weird.

We had a massive drive the next day, 7 hours back up to the champagne region to stop-over on our way home. We stopped for Maccies of course, no roadtrip is complete without them, me and Sophie pretty much travelled round New Zealand from McDonald’s to McDonald’s. We were staying in a town called Verzenay, in a one roomed Air B &B in someones converted garage. It was smart, and had everything we needed, but very cosy, and cosy isn’t something you really look for when its 35 degrees. That day, from a supermarket, we picked up the most extravagant cream-filled, chocolate topped brioche tear and share which I think was the highlight of that long day in the car.

The next morning we drove back to Calais to catch the tunnel home. It wasn’t so busy that day and we arrived earlier than expected, so we were offered an earlier shuttle home which was a great help, as we still had a lot of driving to do on the other side. Those travelling days were hard, even I, the backseat napper and Netflix watcher, was exhausted so I can’t imagine how Maxie was feeling. Once we were home in our flat in Leeds we got a Thai takeaway and I think were asleep before 10.

Max drove around 2500 miles that holiday and didn’t complain once, he wasn’t even ever in control of the music or podcasts we were listening to. What a good guy. Such a good job I didn’t see Mamma Mia 2 until I came back, otherwise those car journeys would be very different…

Tips for if you’re planning a similar European Roadtrip:

  • Be prepared for the tolls! When we could we dodged them on smaller country roads but in times we were on a stricter time limit we had to grin, bare it and pay it. They can only be a couple of Euro’s but were often above 20, most only accepted card too.
  • When travelling in a group of more than 2, hiring a whole villa through Air B & B is cheaper than booking out more than one hotel room. The only place this wasn’t the case with was in La Rochelle. Booking.com were offering a special discount on the day we were booking and all of the available whole house Air B&B’s were far from the port which is where we wanted to be, so only on that occasion did a hotel work out better.
  • If travelling over the summer holiday period book your tunnel slot and accommodation plenty of time in advance, by May I was realising Air B & B choices for 4 people were thinning out a bit in certain areas. 
  • Take a pillow from home to get comfy and sleep in the car (mainly because it passes the time), except of course, if you’re the driver.
  • If travelling in the Summer, check the Air B & B’s have air con, the majority don’t but you can usually find one that does, if you want to get a good nights sleep, it’s a must!
  • Never underestimate the importance of bug spray and citronella candles for an evening if travelling in the summer.
  • If you’re ordering beef, even if you like it medium/rare , ask for medium/ well- done! They tend to cook beef for a lot less than we do! I love it quite rare and really like steak tartare but I think the boys were quite shocked by very red burgers!
  • Whenever you have wifi download as many readly magazines, podcasts, games, audiobooks, netflix shows as you can to keep you entertained on the really long car trips.
  • Eat as much baguette and brioche as you possibly can.
  • Don’t eat butter that’s been sitting in a hot car all day when you’re staying in a suite in a chapel without a toilet door (Max!).

Katie x

(You can see more photos from our trip in the Instagram highlights, there’s a whole highlight for France! @katiejade_natterfornowtblog)

Birch Box- May

Here’s my monthly review of the contents of my Birch Box,

Have to admit, I was a little disappointed with the May box, I don’t think there’s anything I’m going to immediately be buying full sized versions of. But luckily my June tin (?!) has arrived and has more than made up for it.

So here’s the lowdown on my May products:

Benefit Hoola Bronzer: This is a product I already use a lot when doing full make up. It’s the first bronzer I’ve ever had so don’t have much to compare to but I do like it. It’s easy to apply, stays put and really makes a difference to my face. I much prefer the powder to the cream version and will continue to use this in the future.

Spectrum Collections, the Bomb Shell Make-up Brush: I’m not really into the whole brush thing. The products I use that require a brush come with their own which I use. So initially I thought this obviously great quality brush was wasted on me. I have however been using this to apply my blusher and it does work very well and makes it easy to apply evenly. I’m not sure I’m going to start buying whole brush sets but I do appreciate this one and may purchase again in the future.

Luseta Beauty Keratin Smooth Conditioner: I really like the Luseta hair products and this one is no exception. It left my hair really smooth and shiny but is a bit too heavy for frequent use. To get your hair looking good for a special occasion however, it is definitely worth a go.

Doucce Luscious Lip Stain, Steaming Red: We had a choice of colour for the lip stain , so, true to form, I opted for the Steaming Red. However, when it came it’s not what I would really describe as ‘Flaming Red’. When compared to my friends, who chose the pinkier more natural option, they were actually very similar. It’s a very matte colour which I’m not used to and initially did feel quite strange and dry on my lips. However the colour did last a while and I did get used to it. Was also good to try a different colour as I am so loyal to my Mac ‘Last Minute’ stain and need to start experimenting with different colours.

Greenfrog Botanic Botanical Bodywash- Geranium and Peppermint: I do love a natural, environmentally friendly product. This smelt fresh and clean and did the job shower gels are meant to do. I wouldn’t rush to buy it again but its certainly not bad.

Katie x

A Good Summer Read.

With summer now just weeks away I thought it might be time to start planning some Summer reads. I always read the most over the summer and love getting lost in a good book during down time while holidaying or travelling.

I’m looking for some recommendations of what to read while road tripping around France this summer or maybe what would be good to listen to on Audible while Maxie chauffeurs me from city to city. 💁🏻

In exchange here’s my list of must-reads and must haves for your bookshelves!

Us-David Nichols.

I read this on holiday in Sorrento in 2015. It was in the first few weeks of texting Max and I remember spending most of the week lying on a sunbed going from being engrossed in this story to being engrossed in mine and Maxie’s whatsapp conversations. It’s one of the stories that will stay with me forever, its beautifully written and had me crying, laughing and wanting to hug Doug. It’s a story about love but not a love story, more like just a story about life, it’s so relatable and true to life and relationships we’ve all witnessed before. It really is just beautiful. One day by David Nicholls is also one of my favourite stories and I’m currently reading Starter for Ten, but for me Us trumps them all.

The Versions of Us- Laura Barnett.

I picked up this book in a hostel book swap when I was in Perth in 2016 and read it while travelling. Just like Us it’s so relatable and the characters are so absorbing and real I felt like they were my friends. It’s split into three stories, all about the same couple but different versions of where their lives could have taken them if they’d made different choices. All the versions have happy parts and sad times and times you feel like shouting at the book because they’re making the wrong choices. It definitely appeals to my philosophical romantic side of always wondering ‘what if?’. I just absolutely loved this and it’s the perfect holiday read. Such a beautiful and effective way of story telling it kind of had me mad I didn’t have the idea first.

Room- Emma Donoghue.

This is not really light hearted and summery but definitely one of the books everybody needs to read before they die. It’ll have you thinking about it all the time and feeling quite emotional but wow its worth it. I just couldn’t put it down. Must be one of the best books ever written? I won’t say any more. Just read it. Don’t cheat and watch the film, it’s good but not as good. It’s best to watch the film after.

Funny Girl- Nick Hornsby.

I love Nick Hornsby, High Fidelity is another one of my favourites but as a summer read I loved Funny Girl more. It’s set in the 60’s which is perfect, I love anything retro. It’s all about Barbara, a beauty queen who’s dream is to make it in the world of comedy. It’s funny and real and easy to read. A perfect beach read.

Elizabeth is Missing- Emma Healey.

Another book I read while travelling in Oz. I bought this to read on the plane after reading a lot of hype around it. I don’t think it was what I expected but I did love it. It’s very clever and gripping but at the same time not too intense and deep, it’s very cleverly written. If you want a light summer read that’s not a chick-lit, give this one a go!

Paper Towns- John Green.

I think John Green books are meant to teenagers but that doesn’t stop me from loving them a lot. I’ve read them all but think this one grabs the top spot. I read this while living in Italy as a nanny and remember being so hooked I had it in my handbag all the time and was permanently hoping for a free 5 minutes to read a few pages. I think the fact it’s set in Orlando, where I used to live helps a lot, I could picture it all really clearly which made it seem more real and absorbing. The story line is so clever with so many twists and the characters literally have you feeling like they’re your best friends. It’s the right balance of light and funny but also gets you thinking. Definitely worth delving into the teen section of Waterstones to purchase and give a go. Other John Green books I would really recommend are An Abundance of Katherines,Will Grayson, Will Grayson and of course, if you’ve just woken up from a 10 year coma and haven’t read it yet, The Fault in our Stars (maybe not on the beach though, unless you’re open to sobbing like a toddler in public).

Billy and Me- Giovanna Fletcher.

Because I follow her on every media platform, like sooo many people, I feel like Gi is one of my best friends, so when she started releasing books I was straight in there. They really are light-hearted chick-lits at their very best and Billy and Me is my favourite. The easiest books in the world to read, so relatable and perfect for reading on a sun lounger with a cocktail.

Other Books to have on your shelf:

Love Letters of Great Men.

In 2008 I feel very deep into the Sex and the City rabbit hole. I went to see the movie and then spent the rest of the summer watching all the seasons, reading the books, listening to the movie soundtrack and buying all the merch. I was just obsessed and kind of still am. The Love Letters of Great Men book that Carrie borrows from the library in the movie didn’t actually exist until a few months after the film was released. But as soon as it was out, I had it, and read it front to back and back again. Those were the days when I was 16 and full of hope of fairytales and romantic men. It really is a beautiful read and I still pull it out a lot to have a flick through when I’m feeling all soppy and emosh.

The Jane Austen Collection.

I am a Jane Austen nerd. I love them all. They bring out the soppy romantic in me and have me dreaming of living in those simple times. Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility are my favourites, I think I’ve seen every film and TV version of them and are the books I have on my shelf. I’d be lying if I said I’ve read them cover to cover. Jane was quite a wordy writer. But I do like to have a flick through them every now and again to find my favourite quotes.

Parenting the Sh*t out of Life- Mother Pukka and Papa Pukka.

This is my favourite to pick up and read for a giggle but it also has parts that are so moving. I follow both Mother and Papa Pukka on Insta and they really make me laugh. You don’t have to be a parent, or planning a baby, to enjoy this.

Not that Kind of Girl- Lena Dunham.

I don’t think there’s a girl in the world who can’t relate to this memoir. It’s laugh out loud funny. I just love it. I have favourite parts I love to read over and over. It’s life-affirming, hilarious, and just brilliant. I suggest every girl 18-40 reads it at least once. Or about 30 times like me.

On our bookshelves we also have a ridic amount of cookbooks. We are constantly buying cookbooks for eachother and have afternoons where we sit and read them all and put markers on the recipes we’d like to try. I’ll do a cookbook edition of this post in the next few weeks!

I have a thing with children’s book too. I have a whole section of children’s books on my bookshelf. There’s something so wonderful about how simple and magical they can be and I love the beautiful illustrations. Ones with meaning also make lovely presents and keepsakes for a special occasion.

When it comes to buying books I am very passionate about where I buy them from. Although guilty of the occasional quick Amazon prime purchase I do feel a lot better when I’ve bought from a book shop, particularly independent ones. Although more expensive I love to support small businesses and book shops are a dying tradition that we must not lose. There’s something so magic about a good bookshop and gives you a feeling you can never get from ‘adding to basket’ on Amazon.

Let me know your suggestions for what I should be reading this summer. Do I join the Insta hype and read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?

Katie x

My Favourite Puddings.

Well here we go! I’ve been saying for a while now I’m going to start sharing recipes on my blog! I’m a keen cook, baker and eater (as you’ll have probably picked up on if you follow me on the gram) and have dipped into the world of food blogging before when I shared recipes and stories of what I was eating while living in Italy on my Ambrosial Notebook blog (I’ll share a link at the end!)

So here’s my first real foodie post on this blog, and it’s dedicated to my favourite puddings.

If you ask me if I have a sweet tooth I’ll probably say no but this is a lie. I’m not one to snack on sweet things and happily will turn down a chocolate bar but live for post-meal puddings, sweet breakfast waffles and Nutella. These pudding recipes are the perfect combination of them and are recipes that me and my Momma make a lot. They never fail to satisfy and the leftovers are the best part! I swear you’ll love them a dangerous amount! (Sorry not sorry in advance if this post ruins anyone’s summer bodies).

Raspberry Waffle Pudding:

This recipe is to fill a large oven proof dish with pudding, enough to feed roughly 8 people. I usually half the recipe if feeding Max and I (there is leftovers but that’s a good thing).

2 Packets of Toasting Waffles (about 16 waffles), chopped into roughly 3cm square chunks

175g white chocolate, chopped into chunks, roughly 1cm squared

2 packets of frozen raspberries or 300g of fresh raspberries

60g Caster Sugar

1 tbsp Plain Four

550ml Creme Fraiche

3 eggs

1/2 tsp Vanilla Extract

Set oven to 200c (Gas mark 6)

Place half of the chopped waffles in the ovenproof dish, spreading evenly to cover the bottom. Sprinkle over half the white chocolate and half of the raspberries. Repeat the layers again and set the ovenproof dish to one side.

Measure the creme fraiche out in a large jug and whisk in the sugar, flour, eggs and vanilla until all combined.

If you are preparing the pudding well in advance of serving at this stage you can cover the oven proof dish and leave at room temperature and cover the custard mixture and leave to sit in the fridge.

40 minutes before serving pour the custard over the raspberry waffle mixture and leave to soak in for around 10 minutes before transferring to the oven and baking for 30 minutes. The pudding is ready when the custard is set. Serve with cream or ice-cream.

Nutella and Banana Croissant Pudding:

This recipe is currently in my story highlights on Instagram! (www.instagram.com/katiejade_natterfornowtblog)

It’s a recipe I worked on while I lived in Italy and Nutella and Croissants were very readily available. By the end of my year living there I was making it every Sunday and gaining weight at a very fast rate, I had to detox myself from it for a while once I got back.

If you’re not on insta or just fancy a written version of the recipe, here it is…

This recipe also fills a large ovenproof dish and is good for feeding a crowd, half the recipe if you’re not having a party!

12 Croissants (not fresh bakery ones, the slightly stale packaged ones work best)

A medium sized jar of Nutella

3 Bananas

4 eggs

300ml Double Cream

400ml Whole Milk

75g Caster Sugar

Vanilla Extract

Set Oven to 180c.

Half all of the croissants and spread the Nutella thickly on one side of all the halves. Arrange the croissants halves around the edge of the ovenproof dish (Nutella sides facing inwards) and then fill the middle with 2 rows of croissants with the Nutella sides all facing one way. Slice the 3 bananas and slide them between the croissants.

To make the custard measure the double cream and milk out into a large jug and whisk in the eggs, sugar and vanilla until combined. Like with the Raspberry waffle pudding at this stage you can set the pudding aside until later by covering of putting the custard in the fridge.

50 minutes before serving pour the custard over the croissants and leave to soak for 10 minutes baking baking for 40 minutes until the custard is set. Serve with cream or ice-cream.

….You should then maybe drink some green tea or go for a jog.

Katie x

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Birch Box- April

The Cath Kidston one! I was very excited about this one and it didn’t disappoint! The box is just so pretty, a lovely addition to my bathroom!

Marcelle BB Cream Golden Glow Illuminator– This is fab! As I really don’t like foundation I now use this as a light base when getting really done up. It works well with my skin when I’m fake tanned and does make my skin look great. I’m a big fan!

Whish Shave Crave Acai and Grapefruit Shaving Cream- I am really guilty of not using shaving cream in the shower and when my legs are sore and dry afterwards I feel pretty guilty about it. In the bath I use a bath cream conditioner from homemade beauty product company Bath Bake Love (look them up on Insta, they’re fab!) So I was pleased when this came in the box to keep in our shower room to avoid the post shower-shave sting! It did make a difference to make skin afterwards and gave a really nice finish however the smell was quite subtle and a little chemically!

Model Co Baked Blush (Moonshine)- I love all the different tones on this blush and that it has a highlighting element that gives a really bright glowy look! It’s very pretty and simple to apply and I really liked how it looked on! This is a real winner if you’re looking for a blush that’s a bit extra!

Beautaniq Beauty Fill + Tame Brow Gel (Brunette)- I am such a big fan of this! I thinkkkk thinkk it might just beat my Benefit Ka-Brow. The colour is a perfect for my brows, goes on easily and evenly and makes a real difference without being too much! I’ll be buying this again fo sho’.

Cath Kidston Hand Cream- Such a pretty edition to my handbag, the scent is a lot more florally than I would usually go for but it does the job! And I adore Cath soo this is probably quite a bias review…

I’m so late with this post my May box has already arrived!
I’ll review that in the next few weeks!

Katie x

Our Perfect Spa Break at Rudding Park.

Hey guys,

Really excited to share this post with you! Earlier this week we got back from a dreamy spa break at Rudding Park which was the best last minute pre-birthday treat!
This week we were going to go on a boating trip on the Thames but the forecast was just looking so shocking and the river current so high we decided to postpone until August. Cue frantictically searching last minute.com and air B&B for a weather proof alternative.

I remembered about Rudding Park in Harrogate, only 30 minutes from our flat but I’d heard about their new rooftop spa and great food so gave them a call. They are currently running a midweek spring time offer which was too good to refuse and took the original quote for a full overnight spa package down by a significant amount. I rang Max while he was out at football to check I was ok to go ahead and book and luckily he was super keen (the boy loves a Spa).

We set off to Harrogate the next morning (with a pitstop to get a new tyre and an M&S meal deal) and had a little wander around the shops and picked up a little birthday treat in Jo Malone, but really we just couldn’t wait to get to Rudding Park and check-in.

When I rang them to book they asked if it was for a special occasion and I’d said its a last minute holiday alternative but also in the week of my birthday. When we checked in we were told we’d been upgraded to a suite as a ‘Happy Birthday’ from Rudding Park and were walked to the suite by a member of staff. I knew even the more basic room we had booked would be beautiful but the suite was even lovelier and we really were overwhelmed by what we were given.

The suite had a bedroom, lounge, a huge bathroom and a balcony which ran the whole length of it. They’d even left a bottle of pink fizz and a birthday card for me in coffee table.

I felt like I was walking around in a dream world and once I had finished taking snaps and popping open the fizz, I ran a bath in the beautiful rolltop tub complete with TV and Molton Brown goodies. I was unbelievably content lying in that tub with my glass of fizz watching the men’s gymnastics at the commonwealth games.

We then got ready and headed down to dinner at the Clocktower restaurant, a meal that was included in our package. The food in the Clocktower restaurant is a modern twist on British Comfort food, the food and service were perfect. We particularly loved the rhubarb cheesecake for pudding which was served in a perfect pink sphere on top of the biscuit crumble base. We then headed to the bar which had a very impressive gin collection and great cocktails. I had a lovely rhubarb gin and elderflower tonic but by the last few sips I was rushing as I was so excited to get into the massive bed.

That bed was honestly the best place I’ve ever watched Masterchef and I slept a dream on the soft sheets. Breakfast the next morning was just as lovely as the meal the night before, but really to me, you can’t go wrong with an smoked salmon and scrambled egg muffin.

We then headed over to the spa for the spa day. We could choose either the Monday or the Tuesday to use the spa but opted for the Tuesday. On arrival we were given a tour of the spa and bands to access our lockers with our towels, robes and flip flops inside. The spa really is beautiful, it’s kept in great condition and there’s plenty of staff about to order drinks and ask questions. The facilities are lovely and the spa wasn’t too busy so you really felt you could relax and make best use of all they have to offer. The new outside area is beautiful and I’m sure will be even better in the summer. There’s different saunas, steam rooms and pools as well as foot spas and heated relaxation beds where we enjoyed a read and a drink.

When we arrived at the spa we booked to have an additional treatment (because we hadn’t already been indulgent enough). We went for a do it yourself thermal mud treatment. The treatment and what to do was explained to us first by a member of staff and then we were left in our own private room. Laid out were different bowls of mud for different parts of the body as well as flannel mittens and a herbal salt scrub. Once the treatment started and we had started to apply the mud, the room then began to get hotter and hotter for the next 15 minutes. You can feel the mud cleaning out your skin as your pores open in the heat and it feels so good! After the 15 minutes showers then come on from the ceiling and using the flannel mittens and salt you can rub off the mud. I couldn’t recommend this treatment enough and will definitely be doing it again, my skin has never felt so good and it was a great experience to do as a couple.

It was a perfect 24 hours and I’m already dying to go back.

Maybe at May half term Maxie?

Katie x

The Dresses and Hangovers of Birthdays past.

With just a few days until my 26th Birthday I thought I would do a bit of reminiscing on birthdays gone by. I am one of those really annoying people who see’s their own birthday as a big deal and I start thinking about it as soon as Valentine’s Day is out of the way. You’d think maybe by now the novelty would have worn off a little and I’ll  have stopped wanting to celebrate getting older but nah, I’m still totally there for a day that’s all about me. Actually not a day, a month. I justify everything I buy or do as a birthday treat in April.

Birthday celebrations have obviously evolved as the years have gone by. My main memories of birthdays when I younger are mum’s mars bar cake, TGI Fridays, sleepovers and mum waking me up with a personalised happy birthday tape which started with ‘who’s birthday is it today?’ ‘It’s Katie’s birthday today!’ I still say it to myself a lot on my birthday to be honest, the word’s just still get me really excited.

My 18th Birthday was the ultimate and as much as I’d like to repeat it every year nothing can ever top it. At the time, my 18th Birthday felt like the biggest thing in the world, I thought once I was 18, and no longer had to worry about borrowing a convincing ID for nights out, that everything in my world would be easier. Spoiler: I was wrong. But it did take me a while to realise, I was just so pumped up on adrenaline, excitement and possibility. My 18th birthday and the time around it was one of the happiest times of my life; my family were healthy, my friendships were strong, I was skinny and always tanned thanks to my addiction to St Moritz and my birthday was just this huge pink-themed peak of goodness in the middle of it.

I had started to plan my 18th birthday months and months before I actually needed to. I think I sent the facebook invitations in the January, bought the decorations even earlier and by the day came everyone else but me was probably fed up of hearing about it. But it was all worth it and I had the best time ever. My Mum joined in the hype, as Ange takes any excuse to be a bit extra. She actually maybe went a little too extra on this occasion. She seemed to have everything personalised with my face and name, the banners, coasters, wrapping paper. She ordered 25 8 serving pies for my family day time party and made a 6 tier display of pink and silver cupcakes. We had a cocktail fountain which by the end of the night, the contents was very questionable and at some point my party pessimistic Dad got really into it and started cracking open bottles of champers. It was such a blur of pink glitter, my own face everywhere, cocktails, a tactical chunder, the Macarena and my very best friends. A night I’ll definitely always remember forever.

Then came the alcohol years…birthdays meant dangerous birthday punch, strange coloured shots, a lot of cleaning up in our uni flat the next day and about a month of regret afterwards.

FYI: Birthday Punch is a very important birthday tradition we started at uni and one I’m really happy to share and encourage everyone to adopt.

You will need: A lot of Jelly sweets, laces, bears, lips and teeth, cola bottles, as much as you get your hands on but definitely enough to fill at least a quarter of a large mixing bowl.

The majority of a bottle of vodka.

A bottle of lemonade (not all at once, keep topping it up).

Just put it all in the bowl keep giving it a stir.

I don’t know if it makes you drunk or just gives you an immense sugar high but you’ll definitely have a great night and heaps of energy for running round the club like a mad woman.

To talk a little about birthday outfits, anybody else see their birthday outfit as the most important of the year? I have a collection of years of birthday dresses in my wardrobe at my Mum and Dad’s, that I will probably never wear again but still will never part from. Each year I’ve tended to have an image in my head of what I would like before I’ve seen it or usually before I’ve even come up with a birthday plan. The birthday plan then is created to fit the outfit. For instance in the picture above I am wearing a dress covered in animals, hence a jungle themed party. And the yellow dress below, that was for my 21st, I was only going to have a party at uni but a whole new Yarm party was created as an excuse to wear it, it seemed a little too nice to wear to the grotty (but great) student clubs in Sheffield. Every outfit I have now from birthdays gone by is a memory of an occasion and a happy time in my life, to me they all represent what was happening in my life at the time I bought them and wore and that makes them feel pretty special.

For my 23rd Birthday, in 2015, I was living as an Au Pair in Italy. I’ll always remember as the statement ‘complianno di Katie, lei ha Ventitre anni’ will always be stuck in my head. I celebrated the night before by heading out to my favourite bar with my Italian friends and being photographed taking a shot from a syringe…..

The next day I woke up to a hangover and sunshine. I carried the cards and presents I’d received off my family in advance to the breakfast table to open with my Italian fam. The strangest thing was how they were blown away by my cards, Italians just don’t do cards, and they found them so interesting. I had a lunch time tea party with my Italian aunty that day and then went to choose a birthday present of shoes with Nonno, my Italian Grandad who recently passed away. That afternoon with him on my birthday choosing new shoes at a shoe shop in the little town where he lived will always be a very precious memory to me. A few days later I continued the celebrations on a break to Florence with my Italian Mamma, saw some beautiful sites, drank beer and ate good food, that’s one that’s definitely up there with the best of birthday treats.

These days birthdays are seeming a bit more sophisticated. Except for my 24th when I ended up in the Wobbly Goblin in Stockton at 4a.m. I’ll never be justifying that decision as a birthday treat. Instead of birthday punch and 3a.m McDonald’s it’s now more prosecco, pretty cocktails and fine dining. We have just got back from an amazing spa break at Rudding Park (blog post on that one coming soon!), spending Friday celebrating with my parents and have something very exciting booked for Sunday. My outfit for this year is exactly what I imagined, it’s like New Look read mind and was delighted when I found it! I can’t wait to share at the weekend!

Katie x

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